Technology Will Speed You Through the Airport of the Future

Car-parking robots, tracking beacons and facial recognition systems aim to make travel relaxing

Excerpt from "Technology Will Speed You Through The Airport of the Future", Wall Street Journal, By Scott McCartney, July 15, 2015 11:38 a.m. ET.

"In Germany, Dusseldorf's passenger traffic but it doesn't have real estate to expand parking the answer: a valet parking robot.

From the airport's website travelers make a reservation and enter flight information. Then they drive to a spot in the garage and lock their car. The system reads the license plate and decides where it will park the vehicle.

Which looks like a giant forklift, picks up the car by the wheels and moves it.  At night, robots reshuffle the garage cars that will be returned the next day are easily accessible. The system tracks if travelers' flights are delayed or canceled and has their cars ready when they arrive.

The robots have operated for nearly a year and boosted garage capacity by 32%, says SITA managing director Christian Jahncke, who oversees the robot project.  It has had one ding in one of the 40,000 cars handled.  One problem:  Sometimes the robot sets off the anti-theft alarm.  Eventually the screeching stops.  "High-quality cars are very sensitive to being picked up," M.r Jahncke says.

Close-in valet robot parking costs €29, or about $32, a day.  That compares with €24.50 for premium parking the same distance from the terminal without valet service.

Each robot costs about $250,000, and Dusseldorf uses three so far.  In all, Dusseldorf has spent about $1 million, far less than building a new garage, says Mr. Jahncke.